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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: Pack Cover

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Why do you need a pack cover? 

A pack cover is a waterproof cover for your backpack. Most packs are not waterproof so if it’s raining for any length of time, your pack will get wet and then everything inside. 

The cover wraps around the outside, covering the entire pack except for the traps. Some packs come with a pack cover in a small compartment on the top or bottom. 

Another option is to use dry bags or garbage bags inside your pack which lets the pack get wet, but keep the contents dry. A last option is to find one of the few packs that are waterproof. They tend to be more expensive than the basic ones. 

Of course if the weather is going to be very dry, you may not need to bring one. I backpack around the Pacific Northwest mostly and it’s rare to get multiple days straight of dry weather.

Find the right size

Pack covers are built for a certain size backpack. If your pack is 60 liters make sure the pack cover fits packs that size. Usually it’s a range like 60-70 liters. 

Don’t pack anything on the outside

Pack cover sizing assumes that there’s nothing hanging on the outside of your pack. If you tie large sleeping mats to the outside, a standard pack cover may not fit. Finding a range like 60 to 80 liters on a pack cover might give you enough space to fit a few more things inside. 

Siltarp is more expensive but lighter

Just like in tarps, thinner material for pack covers is going to be more expensive but lighter. Thinner material packs down smaller and takes less space in your pack. It is usually easier to put a hole in as well. If you tend to be bushwhacking, a more durable material might work better.

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